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How could I forget?

May 18, 2009
62-20. Round 1, 4-3. Round 2, 3-4.

62-20. Round 1, 4-3. Round 2, 3-4.

And just like that, the Celtic season ends. Well, our season ends too. Fans have a chunk of real estate in sports, and we often feel as if we live and die by the successes and failures of the teams that we root for. For those who judge or don’t understand, it is a sad sight for you to see someone really down in the dumps after a big loss. For those who don’t judge but instead fully understand, you know how it is.

But what separates some fans from others is the resiliency to pick yourself back up and celebrate the moments that are worth celebrating. You have to be optimistic ex post facto: look for the good wherever you can find the good. Revel in the accomplishments where you can, because sometimes you don’t know when it will be back… if ever. For the fans that can’t do this, you should learn how. For the fans that can do this, now is the time to celebrate what you can from the 2008-2009 Boston Celtics season. Find the successes, both small and large, and celebrate. It’s a long off-season for those who can’t.

We know that Rondo will probably get locked up this summer for a long-term and lucrative deal... but will Ray get an extension after his $18.7 million due in 09/10?

We know that Rondo will probably get locked up this summer for a long-term and lucrative deal... but will Ray get an extension after his $18.7 million due in '09/'10?

It’s also the perfect time to employ another important lesson: look ahead. The best part about being a fan is that you are in no control, whatsoever, about how the team performs in any given day or about what decisions are made that affects the general make-up of the game. We are in the best position possible for non-consequential support: we cheer, we banter, we criticize, we complain, we turn a blind eye when necessary, we root for our guys… but we have no control over what happens. We are helpless in that department. But isn’t that what makes this whole fan/sports thing wonderful? We have the easiest job: root for a team, root for a player, cheer when they win, and criticize when they lose. What could be easier? Fans put their faith into the hands of professionals that are not rational beings. Their motives and incentives to win aren’t always aligned with fans’ interests. Yes, both parties often want to win but in some cases, loyal fans want it more. Sports are nothing without their fans. Teams are nothing without their fanbase. Who’s going to pay $350 to see you play? We will… as long as you give us what we want.

Most people want titles. Championships. Even dynasties. After teams win once, we want a second. Then a third… then a fourth… Fans are cruel because they expect that their team to win. There is no consolation prize, no pats on the back for second place… it often feels like second place really is the first loser. Especially in this town. Especially with these fans.

Coming into work this morning, people were talking lightly about last night’s game as embarrassing, depressing, unfortunate… blah, blah, blah. Look, we’re all disappointed. We all wanted the Celtics to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals and defend their title against the best team in the league: Cleveland Cavalebrons. This would have been our moral victory for the season: as banged up as we were, as shallow as our bench was… could we defend against the best team in the league? If you can’t win, at least lose to the best. This is what we all wanted. This is what I wanted: if we arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday, May 20th, I would have been excited and proud of this Celtics team for clearing all of the insurmountable hurdles thrown in their path.

But as it turns out, the Celtics were 1 game shy of this moral victory. The Celtics were 1 quarter shy of this victory… Heck, if we really want to play this game, the Celtics were a mere 2 minutes away from this victory (the first 2 minutes of the 4th quarter in Game 7 v. ORL when the Magic went on an 11-0 run).

If you ask me, that is as good as the moral victory. They were that close… that close.

Came down to 2 minutes.

Came down to 2 minutes.

In this case, I’m choosing to be the right kind of fan. The Celtics gave us a great run this season. Remember when they won 19 games in a row before falling to the Lake show? Or how they were still 27-3 after having their win streak snapped? Remember how they won 18 games after KG went down with his mysterious knee injury and still managed to win 70% of their games down the stretch until the playoffs without one of the league’s best players? Remember how the Celtics gave us the BEST opening round playoff series in league history against the formidable and dangerous Chicago Bulls?? Remember how the Celts took the Magic to Game 7 in a series they could have lost after 5 games?

I remember all of that. I remember seeing an aging team dig down and its veteran players fight until the final minutes of Game 7. I remember seeing 3 young players (Rondo, Perk, Baby) step onto the big stage and be asked to help to carry a sizable the chunk of responsibility alongside 2 hall of famers in order to make a serious run back to the conference championships/finals. I remember seeing our best bench player stay in a game for an extra 3 minutes after tearing ligaments in his left knee to fight through it for the team– Powe had microfacture surgery a few weeks ago.

How could I forget?

Time for all of us to brush off, get up, and reload.

Time for all of us to brush off, get up, and reload.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting about various topics: celebrating the play of guys like Perk and Baby in the playoffs, giving Rondo tips for his off-season regiment to truly become the best point guard in the association, why the Celtics need to keep Coach Thibodeau, what the Celtics roster COULD look like in the fall, and what happens to the core of this Celtics team. There will also be sprinkles of some of my favorite moments from this season. We have 4 months for the front office to work out the kinks for contracts, for the players to rest up, and for the fans to gear up for another run at a title. We all will make the best of this situation that we didn’t want to be in.

Today is the first day of the Celtics off-season. Although it comes earlier than most of us wanted, this year’s Celtics gave us a lot to be happy about and plenty to celebrate. Greg Popovich, revered as the best coach in the NBA, has said on countless occasions that the most difficult thing to do in the NBA is to win back to back titles. Pop knows and has lived this: he’s lead the Spurs to titles in ’99, ’03, ’05, and ’07. Assuming the philosopher king Pop is right, this bodes well for our still oh-so-talented team for 2010. I am convinced that the Celtics will come back healthier, stronger, deeper, and most importantly, hungrier next season. How will of this unfold to raise banner #18 in 2010? Keep checking back in the summer to find out.

Endnote  •  I’ll take the Lakers in 7 and the Cavs in 4. Yeah, the Cavs in 4. Then for the finals? You guessed it, Cavs in 4. I’m going to quote the great Moses Malone from the 1983 NBA playoffs when he claimed the 76ers would win in “Fo, Fo, Fo” en route to a title– all sweeps. Cleveland: you just might add the fo’th fo for 2009. (I don’t really think that the Cavs will sweep the Magic or the Lakers, but isn’t it fun to think it?)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2009 9:00 pm

    I am sort of happy we lost to Orlando. I mean, I never want to lose to anyone but I don’t think I would have been able to watch the thrashing LeBron would have given our depleted team. We will have time to face the Cavs next year and eliminate them. There’s no doubt in my mind that our team when healthy is the best team in the league. Hands down!

    • May 21, 2009 3:52 pm

      I’m not really happy about losing at all… I think just like Orlando stands a chance of getting by Cleveland, we would have stood a chance. KG apparently was going to play in Game 1 of the ECF if we made it… why not just play in Game 7 v. ORL?

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